EcoAction success stories: if a Native tree falls in the forest

Children working in forest
Decades ago, loggers cleared patches of land running through the centre of British Colombia’s Galiano Island and replaced the native trees with lucrative Douglas fir plantations. Today, these mature stands have a dense canopy that starves the understory of light and robs the soil of nutrients. The monoculture has also cut off the native forest corridor because the soil simply cannot support native plants.

Pushed to its ecological limits, what can a private landowner or a community group do to protect the island’s fragile ecosystem? Actually, a great deal! Just ask the staff of the Galiano Conservancy Association - who combined meaningful stewardship of private land and the brawn of volunteers to rehabilitate their local forest - one invasive species at a time.  

Mid-Island Restoration 

Launched in 2004, the Mid-Island Enhancement Program looked atinnovative ways to restore local ecosystems that had been degraded, damaged, or destroyed from agriculture use, road-building, residential development, and logging. The Program started with a small plan to preserve the few parcels of land that remained intact. This included a swath of about 300 hectares (700 acres) of near-contiguous protected areas stretching from shore to shore through the mid-section of the island. The goal is to improve the overall health of this unique ecosystem and the centrepiece of the program is restoring a 62 hectare (162-acre) Douglas fir plantation to its original state.

Bringing Back the Forest

The preservation treatments started by developing meaningful partnerships with private landowners, which reconnected them to the native forest. Next, the program worked to diversify the existing habitat to give wildlife and plant species an opportunity to once again move through a healthy forest. The program achieved these goals through an ecological restoration process that combined: 1) forging stewardship partnerships with landowners adjacent to protected areas; 2) on-the-ground forest restoration work; and 3) science-based soil nutrient testing to learn about the changes to soil conditions following restoration treatments.

What’s Involved?

Private landownerengagement gets neighbours involved, and has strengthened the sense of community.

  • Habitat restoration work engages volunteers and uses unique, hand-powered treatments, including thinning the plantation, redistributing the windrows (large piles of woody debris left behind by logging activities), removing invasive vegetation and planting native species.
  • Promoting forest stewardship by training volunteers to minimize damage to native vegetation and wildlife and to avoid further degradation of the land.
  • Analysis of soil conditions which showed how these innovative efforts improved the nutrient levels of restoration sites much more quickly than anyone had originally expected.

The Forest You See Today

Restoring the island’s ecosystem has proven to be a great way to bring back the historic landscape for everyone to enjoy. In particular, the hands-on work brought the principles of conservation down to a personal and interactive level, which has provided an ongoing learning experience to local residents.

According to the volunteers from the Galiano Conservancy Association, the plantation restoration project has exceeded expectations and the site continues to be an outstanding opportunity for education and training programs, including:

  • six high-school classes learning about biodiversity and effective restoration efforts;
  • 36 university students participating in restoration activities as part of their study programs, including a graduate student from the Netherlands;
  • a number of conference and workshop participants;  
  • 50 environmental professionals from Alaska to California.

So, if a native tree falls in the forest, will anybody hear? On Galiano Island, yes! Volunteers on Galiano Island heard the call and worked to restore the Douglas fir plantation to its natural state. Will you?   

By the Numbers

Stewardship agreements with local landowners completed
Cubic metres of woody debris dispersed, enhancing 2.25 hectares the plantation
Hectares of plantation thinned to restore canopy and understory conditions
Hectares of plantation land treated to remove exotic species
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